Phantom Rose 2 Sapphire PAX West Impression

Phantom Rose 2 Sapphire is a game that uses strategy through cooldowns to make sure players don’t just spam their strongest attacks

Roguelike deck builders are a booming genre these days. With so many hitting the market there has to be something to make a new one stand apart from the others. Luckily, makaroll’s Phantom Rose 2 Sapphire has two things. The first is that it is a more story-focused sequel in a genre not known for getting sequels yet. Second, the anime visuals and reliance on cooldowns rather than drawing cards make this one stand out. RPGamer got a chance to check the title out as a part of PAX West 2023.

Players join Aria as she wakes up from her friend Slyphy’s frantic pleas to realize that her normal school life has turned dark. Phantoms have taken it over and Aria has to make her way through to help others and herself escape. As Aria begins her journey, slow and haunting piano tracks pipe in as players choose a route through the school. These routes can take players through a variety of nodes. Combat and treasure were the only ones in the demo, and it has Aria face off against an enemy or provide answers to situations that pop up. At one point along the journey, Aria and Sylphy come across Reverie, who is quite mysterious, knowing more about what is happening than she lets on. These interactions, while brief, add some spice and intrigue to the story.

Story scenes and combat sprites have an adorable anime tinge and sharp lines that make it stand out. These sprites all also settle on dark backdrops so even though they are cute, there’s a sense of menace behind many of them. Aria fights these enemies one-on-one and there are four actions per turn. Enemies start by having two actions in random positions and players are able to choose from a variety of options to counter, break through, or defend them. Barriers have the ability to last through turns so keeping defense up is a good idea because enemies can get the first swing in the next round. Aria starts with a few basic attacks, some barriers, and a healing ability. These all have cooldowns attached, so using the strongest abilities can mean waiting a while to use them again. These cooldowns last between battles as well so using a strong ability to finish off a foe will just leave players in a tough situation later on.

Finishing off a battle or story situation nets players some currency as well as a new card to use in combat. Currency is used in story scenes or at shops to buy better treasure or unlock other options in the dialogue trees. Phantom Rose 2 Sapphire makes combat a priority as doing so makes other aspects of the game easier. At the end of a stage, after completing a few randomized routes, Aria has to face a punishing boss. These bosses have frantic and foreboding piano music that makes these battles feel tougher. These boss phantoms yield bigger rewards in the form of more and rarer cards to add to the player’s deck. Customization also comes in the form of items that can change the composition of how a card works.

Cards can be removed from the deck as well, but that gives fewer options on the battlefield as everything has a cooldown.  There’s a little flair added to the story scenes when they pop up but the majority of the demo was spent side-scrolling from room to room taking out enemies and customizing the loadout that players have. In the full version, there are two classes: blade and mage to choose from that have their own mechanics.

Phantom Rose 2 Sapphire is a game that uses strategy through cooldowns to make sure players don’t just spam their most potent attacks. Taking the tried and true method of roguelikes and having every card available at the same time is unique. How many cards will be available by the end of the game and how the story unfolds are still question marks, but the music, visuals, and combat style are interesting. Players can look forward to more Phantom Rose 2 Sapphire on October 30, 2023, for PC and Mac.


Ryan Costa

Friendly neighbourhood reviewer that thinks every RPG should be discussed, because one never knows where a hidden gem can appear.

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